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The new office job: Coworking space’s place in Southern Colorado

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In February, a study released by Gallup showed that 43 percent of workers in America are now remote, leaving behind a traditional 9-to-5 office job model. More than half of American employees are now citing flexibility as one of the key factors in taking a job, and 37 percent of those surveyed said they’d jump at the chance to work from where they wished.

It’s no question, then, that the winds of the workforce are blowing in new directions, likely driven by a number of factors: the increasingly digital age, economic issues and lifestyle aspirations for flexibility and freedom. But what happens when someone takes the leap towards working remotely or freelancing? Often, working from home or working out of a coffee shop may seem to be the only solution to the conundrum of a seemingly adrift worker with no real ties.

But there’s a third option, one that is rapidly gaining popularity and proving to have several benefits: Joining a coworking space.  

The History & Philosophy of Coworkng

So what exactly is “coworking,” and where did the concept come from? As Craig Baute—who is the founder of the Creative Density Coworking in Denver and sits on the board of Coworks, a national coworking association—explained it, a web developer in San Francisco named Brad Neuberg was working from home in 2005. His roommate would always come home telling stories about all the great discussions and interactions he’d had with people.

“Brad kind of missed that interaction,” said Baute. “And he kind of said, ‘Well, why the heck don’t I get that interaction?’ ”

Around the same time in New York City, a movement called Jelly was taking off with similar motivations. Amit Gupta and Luke Crawford, roommates who worked from home, missed community—but not the infamous office politics that abound in corporate life. So they began inviting people to work together out of their home one day a week, and more people began forming their own work groups in New York City.

Neuberg coined the term “coworking” and opened what is now deemed to be the first official coworking concept in San Francisco in 2005.

“They built a space and wrote a philosophy about it: friends coming together to work, to collaborate, to celebrate different occupations,” Baute said.

Welcome Fellow hosts events, concerts, and small business training out of their space, too. Photo by Teryn O’Brien

A new kind of work movement was born—one that many cities began buying into, including Denver.

Baute, originally from Michigan, opened the second coworking space in Denver, Creative Density, in 2011 because he knew the atmosphere in the Mile High City was prime for coworking.

Today, there are around 20 independent coworking spaces in Denver. Several are part of Denver Coworks—which Baute founded—a nonprofit organization that helps raise awareness of the concept of coworking, matches potential members with the right coworking space, and fights for the vision of coworking within an increasingly commercialized market.

“Denver is one of the most competitive spaces, certainly in the top three, for coworking in the United States…for the number of coworking available on a per capita bases,” described Baute. “So Denver is one of the significant hubs.”

Trickling down to Colorado Springs

Southern Colorado has been feeling the collective inspiration, too. The Enclave—the first coworking space to open in Colorado Springs—was born out a group of 13 individuals who began meeting together to work in coffee shops in 2010.

“We were just hanging out in the morning and working together,” said Ryan Cross. “It was huge. It had much more response than we ever thought.” In the summer of 2011, Cross made it official, purchasing their first space with eight official members for the inception of The Enclave.

Not long after, Lisa Tessarowicz and Hannah Parsons—women who both knew too many people sick of working out of coffee shops—saw a need and founded Epicentral Coworking in 2012. “It was just something we wanted to do for the community,” said Tessarowicz of their business jump into an unknown market.

Frank Frey and Kayla Battles are “Space Captains,” an actual job title at Epicentral. They are pivotal in building community, networking, and collaboration within the coworking space. One of the major appeals of coworking is that there’s an expectation for businesses and individuals across industries to connect in an intentional manner. Photo by Teryn O’Brien

It’s paid off. Epicentral is a bustling hub of excitement in downtown Colorado Springs, providing more than 130 members with unlimited access to a bright, welcoming space.

One thing lead to another, and soon there were several other spaces beginning to pop up—including Engine Co-Working inside Catalyst Campus, a facility that mentors small businesses, entrepreneurs, and startups; The Machine Shop, which was born out of several high-quality graphic design and architectural firms banding together to create an affordable workspace; and Welcome Fellow—one of the newest kids on the block  (and youngest: the founders are in their upper 20s and early 30s) to found a coworking space in 2016 that’s cool, hip and highly geared towards cultural movers and shakers.

The Rising Appeal of Coworking

But what’s so bad about working out of a coffee shop? It’s free, right? For the independent worker, it’s not really, Cross of Enclave explained.

“You’re still paying for coffee throughout the day—unless you’re going to be That Guy,” he said. “Nobody wants that. That’s a place that sells coffee; it’s not a place that provides you a seat to work.”

But there’s always home, then.

“There’s question of: Oh, you may think you work well from home, but then do you home well from work?” said Tessarowicz of Epicentral. “You have to be thinking through those boundaries. I am a person who is very easily distracted. I’d much sooner alphabetize my bookshelf then actually get work done. So I can’t work from home.”

Renting an actual office becomes risky and unattainable for individuals or small businesses. “If you look at just the people that have startups or just freelancers, they’re definitely not about to go rent a big office,” said Adam Morley, co-founder of Welcome Fellow and founder of the retail business Café Motique. “Number one, they don’t need it. Number two, they can’t afford it.”

“We have people here who have full time jobs, but they can’t get work done at work. They’ll come here to get work done so that can change their work environment and get something done,” said Lisa Tessarowicz, co-founder of Epicentral. Coworking spaces offer a place to work without the distractions of a normal work environment. Photo by Teryn O’Brien

One selling point for coworking, then, becomes the fact that you share a workspace with minimal expense. Most coworking spaces offer monthly, weekly, or daily packages, with people using the space as little or as much as they want. Teams or individuals come and go on a whim, and they have the flexibility to do so.

But the larger and more important appeal isn’t just saving money. It’s community.

The Invaluable Community of Coworking

The philosophy behind coworking has always been about community and collaboration. The majority of coworking spaces try very hard to create a sense of both professional networking and friendship within each space. Businesses and individuals across industries who may never have met before are suddenly thrown into each other’s paths.

Frank Frey and Kayla Battles work at Epicentral as Space Captains (yes, that’s a real title), and their sole job is to help facilitate intentional community, help members feel welcome within the space, and offer technical and administrative assistance. “We provide the right kind of distraction,” Frey described, and Battles added that coworking is all about “social currency.” They are both constantly on the lookout for how to best connect members.

The results can be amazingly rewarding. At Epicentral, Springs Magazine was born out of a connection between the editor, Jeremy Jones, and the publisher, John Sawyer.

“It’s a great place to have ideas and make connections,” Jones said. “Even as editor of the Springs, it’s been a great place for us to continue to have an office, because it’s a great place to have synergy and very easily hear what other people are doing.”

Coworking spaces can also add vital value to small businesses with smaller teams or even branches of a larger corporation that want to save money and tap into local networks. Kelly Pomis, Deputy Executive Director of Teach For America, a national nonprofit that works to equalize education for all children, helped convince the large nonprofit to move their regional office to Epicentral. When their lease of a office space was up, Pomis said that they began looking for alternative options rather than renting out another huge space that wasn’t even being used effectively.

“We realized that we can save $15,000 saving space,” she said. “It just made sense….We’re a national organization that’s 25 years old. But now, more and more of our sister and brother regions are like, ‘Could this make sense?’ We do save a lot of money, and it’s invaluable for those networks. Colorado Springs has helped pave the way for a national organization to do this. Do we have to work in the isolation of our own office? Technically, no.”

The Machine Shop—a non-traditional coworking space that only rents out a few desks but offers several top-notch design studios like Co-Pilot Creative, Fixer Creative, Design Rangers, and Echo Architecture a space to share and collaborate in—has seen exponential growth in living together as design firms in one space, according to Valerie Lloyd, the co-owner and manager.

Coworking spaces become a home away from home. “But the bottom line is, you could come here for $140 a month and get the exact same cost [as going to a coffee shop] at a place where you are truly welcome to come and stay as long as you’d like,” said Ryan Cross. Photo by Teryn O’Brien

“We’re people who want to affect the city well with good design,” she said. “Design then creates a better environment that creates a competitive spirit a little bit that just raises the bar continually….[Coworking] really does allow small businesses to have a lot more than they would just doing it on their own. Stuff you couldn’t just afford.”

In the future, coworking will continue to grow, following the whims of the rapidly changing workforce.

Kayla Battles compares it to gym memberships, where people will someday ask “So where do you work from?” in a similar way that people ask “Where do you work out?” The diversity of those that find coworking beneficial range in age, industry, and profession. But they all have one theme in common: they want to find friends and connections in a collaborative environment.

A Coworking Space in Southern Colorado’s manufacturing hub?

Where could coworking pop up next?

Craig Baute from Denver sincerely hopes that it’s in Pueblo.

“Pueblo is ripe for a coworking space,” he said. “It’s not only an economic opportunity for the city, but with downtown revitalization and wanting to keep young people there, Pueblo is Ground Zero to where coworking could really change things—to keep people there, keep small businesses there, just let people know that there’s other opportunities just by exposing people to the idea of coworking.”

Batue said that he’s been trying to find partners for Pueblo, but that the challenge is always introducing the first coworking space into a new place.

While getting the word out about coworking is often the hardest challenge, according to Adam Morley from Welcome Fellow, coworking can be an amazing moment for those who learn about it.

“If you do get people in here, it can change their life, and those are the moments I live for, honestly,” he said. “When you get those people who are wandering before, but then they come in and realize, this is what I want!”

One more thing...

Local and independent journalism is under threat in the West and you change that.  With corporate raiders slashing newsrooms across the West, the PULP is one of the "Last Locals" in Colorado to produce original, compelling journalism missing in today's profit hungry world. But that costs money, time and hard work. We don't believe in spamming you with ads or putting up restrictive paywalls and that's why we need your help.

For every contribution, we put 100% back into producing original and amazing journalism. That's a promise only a local and independent newsroom can promise. Take heart because you will fuel stories just like this one and the future of journalism.

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Colorado’s unaffiliated voters get to join in on primary politics

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Colorado is joining a growing list of states that allow unaffiliated voters — the state’s largest voting bloc — to participate in the major party primaries, thanks to a voter-passed initiative that coincided with disenchantment with the polarization of the 2016 election.

The 2016 initiative allows Colorado’s 1.2 million active independent voters to cast ballots Tuesday in either the Democratic or Republican party primaries on Tuesday. The initiative passed in a year that saw presidential candidate Bernie Sanders defeat Hillary Clinton in Colorado caucuses and yet a strong vote for Donald Trump in the general election, though he lost the state.

Early mail and drop-off ballot returns suggest that more independents are voting Democratic in a tight gubernatorial primary to succeed term-limited Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper. It’s too early to predict independents’ turnout or impact on the campaigns, advocates said.

“What this means for the races will take time to see,” said Josh Penry, a political consultant and former Republican state Senate minority leader who campaigned for the initiative. “As the parties self-immolate and people flee them, it’s important that they can vote in the semi-finals.”

“The reality is the GOP and the Democrats should be thinking about how to appeal to the people in this enormous bloc,” Penry said.

But there’s little sign that the major party gubernatorial candidates are reaching out in this swing state where Democrats and Republicans each have roughly 1 million registered voters.

Presumed Democratic front-runners U.S. Rep. Jared Polis and former state Treasurer Cary Kennedy espouse universal health care, their public schools credentials, protecting public lands and promoting renewable energy. Republicans, including Treasurer Walker Stapleton, a cousin of President George W. Bush, generally embrace President Donald Trump’s immigration crackdown and income tax cuts and promote Colorado’s oil and gas industry.

It’s that polar opposite, take-it-or-leave-it campaign buffet that prompted Alex Leith, a Denver civil engineer, to abandon the Democratic Party and become an unaffiliated voter two years ago.

He saw the Sanders and Trump rebellions as signs that traditional party politics weren’t working for people like himself, a self-described fiscal conservative and social liberal.

“I was seeing a lot of hypocrisy coming from Republicans and Democrats,” Leith said. “I wanted to see a return to a common sense ability to actually govern and work across party lines.”

The 27-year-old cast his gubernatorial primary ballot this year for Republican businessman and former state Rep. Victor Mitchell. “He’s willing to not totally align himself with Republican dogma,” Leith said, citing Mitchell’s support for a “red flag” law that would allow the seizure of firearms from those who pose a danger to themselves or others.

“I’m also encouraged by the fact that he’s willing to admit when he isn’t knowledgeable about certain topics — but is willing to study them,” Leith said.

Supporters of the semi-open primary argue that independent voters like Leith pay for the party primaries and should have a say in them.

Whether that generates higher turnout or moderate candidate positions could take several election cycles to determine. Arizona, Kansas, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Rhode Island and West Virginia also allow independents to vote in primaries.

As of early Thursday, nearly 540,000 Coloradans had voted — including nearly 123,000 independents. Democrats and Republicans had returned about 208,000 ballots for each party.

In 2016, 21 percent of active voters participated in the primary.

“Our data and our experience points to how philosophically diverse Colorado is. There is no such thing as a generic independent,” said Kent Thiry, the CEO of Denver-based dialysis firm DaVita Inc., who spearheaded the 2016 initiative.

“I’ve been an independent most of my adult life,” Thiry said. “To not have a voice until the final election in a country where the primary has become the final election … that is very frustrating to me.”

Thiry’s group released a poll this week suggesting that education, health care, jobs and the economy are the top issues for Colorado’s unaffiliated voters.

Seth Masket, director of the Center on American Politics at the University of Denver, is skeptical that the new system will produce an immediate impact.

“A lot of states allow some version of this, and honestly the research suggests it doesn’t make that much of a difference whether (the primary) is open or closed,” Masket said. “The nominees end up looking like the one the parties would choose themselves.”

Also running to succeed Hickenlooper are former Democratic state Sen. Mike Johnston and Democratic Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne. Republican businessman Greg Lopez and investment banker Doug Robinson, a nephew of Utah senate candidate Mitt Romney, want their party’s nomination.

Colorado hasn’t elected a Republican governor since 1998.

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For every contribution, we put 100% back into producing original and amazing journalism. That's a promise only a local and independent newsroom can promise. Take heart because you will fuel stories just like this one and the future of journalism.
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Some parents worry new drug approval could shift States’ attitudes on medicinal cannabis

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Some American parents who for years have used cannabis to treat severe forms of epilepsy in their children are feeling more cautious than celebratory as U.S. regulators near a decision on whether to approve the first drug derived from the marijuana plant.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is expected to issue a decision by the end of the month on the drug Epidiolex, made by GW Pharmaceuticals. It’s a purified form of cannabidiol — a component of cannabis that doesn’t get users high — to treat Dravet and Lennox-Gastaut syndromes in kids. Both forms of epilepsy are rare.

Cannabidiol’s effect on a variety of health conditions is frequently touted, but there is still little evidence to back up advocates’ personal experiences. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has long categorized cannabis as a Schedule I drug, a category with “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” That strictly limits research on potential medical uses for cannabis or the chemicals in it, including cannabidiol, or CBD.

But for years, parents desperate to find anything to help their children have turned to the marijuana-based products made legal by a growing number of states.

Meagan Patrick is among the parents using CBD to treat symptoms in their children. She moved from Maine to Colorado in 2014 so she could legally get CBD for her now-5-year-old daughter, Addelyn, who was born with a brain malformation that causes seizures.

“My child was dying, and we needed to do something,” Patrick said.

As for the potential approval of a pharmaceutical based on CBD, she said fear is her first reaction.

“I want to make sure that her right to continue using what works for her is protected, first and foremost. That’s my job as her mom,” Patrick said.

Advocates like Patrick became particularly concerned when GW Pharmaceuticals’ U.S. commercial business, Greenwich Biosciences, began quietly lobbying to change states’ legal definition of marijuana, beginning in 2017 with proposals in Nebraska and South Dakota.

Some worried the company’s attempt to ensure its product could be legally prescribed and sold by pharmacies would have a side effect: curtailing medical marijuana programs already operating in more than two dozen states.

The proposals generally sought to remove CBD from states’ legal definition of marijuana, allowing it to be prescribed by doctors and supplied by pharmacies. But the change only applies to products that have FDA approval.

Neither Nebraska nor South Dakota allows medical use of marijuana, and activists accused the company of trying to shut down future access to products containing cannabidiol but lacking FDA approval.

Britain-based GW Pharmaceuticals never intended for the changes to affect other marijuana products, but they are necessary to allow Epidiolex to be sold in pharmacies if approved, spokesman Stephen Schultz said.

He would not discuss other places where the company will seek changes to state law. The Associated Press confirmed that lobbyists representing Greenwich Biosciences backed legislation in California and Colorado this year.

“As a company, we understand there’s a significant business building up,” Schultz said. “All we want to do is make sure our product is accessible.”

Industry lobbyists in those states said they take company officials at their word, but they still insisted on protective language ensuring that recreational or medical marijuana, cannabidiol, hemp and other products derived from cannabis plants won’t be affected by the changes sought by GW Pharmaceuticals.

Patrick Goggin, an attorney who focuses on industrial hemp issues in California, said the company would run into trouble if it tried to “lock up access” to marijuana-derived products beyond FDA-approved drugs.

“People need to have options and choices,” he said. “That’s the battle here.”

Legal experts say the changes are logical. Some states’ laws specifically prohibit any product derived from the marijuana plant from being sold in pharmacies. The FDA has approved synthetic versions of another cannabis ingredient for medical purposes but has never approved marijuana or hemp for any medical use.

A panel of FDA advisers in April unanimously recommended the agency approve Epidiolex for the treatment of severe seizures in children with epilepsy, conditions that are otherwise difficult to treat. It’s not clear why CBD reduces seizures in some patients, but the panel based its recommendation on three studies showing significant reduction in children with two forms of epilepsy.

Denver-based attorney Christian Sederberg, who worked on the GW Pharmaceuticals-backed legislation in Colorado on behalf of the marijuana industry, said all forms of marijuana can exist together.

“The future of the industry is showing itself here,” Sederberg said. “There’s going to be the pharmaceutical lane, the nutraceutical (food-as-medicine) lane, the adult-use lane. This shows how that’s all coming together.”

Alex and Jenny Inman said they won’t switch to Epidiolex if it becomes available, though their son Lukas has Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.

Alex, an information technology professional, and Jenny, a preschool teacher, said it took some at-home experimentation to find the right combination of doctor-prescribed medication, CBD and THC — the component that gives marijuana users a high — that seemed to help Lukas with his seizures.

“What makes me a little bit nervous about this is that there’s sort of a psyche amongst patients that, ‘Here’s this pill, and this pill will solve things,’ right? It works differently for different people,” Alex Inman said.

The Inmans moved from Maryland to Colorado in 2015 after doctors recommended a second brain surgery for Lukas’ seizures. The couple and other parents and advocates for CBD said children respond differently to a variety of strains.

The Realm of Caring Foundation, an organization co-founded by Paige Figi, whose daughter Charlotte’s name is attached to the CBD oil Charlotte’s Web, said it maintains a registry of about 46,000 people worldwide who use CBD.

For Heather Jackson, who said her son Zaki, now 15, benefited from CBD and who co-founded the foundation, Epidiolex’s approval means insurers will begin paying for treatment with a cannabis-derived product.

“That might be a nice option for some families who, you know, really want to receive a prescription who are going to only listen to the person in the white coat,” Jackson said.

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Colorado to toughen car pollution rules

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Colorado’s governor on Tuesday ordered his state to adopt vehicle pollution rules enforced in California, joining other states in resisting the Trump administration’s plans to ease emission standards.

Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper told state regulators to begin writing rules that incorporate California’s low-emission standards with a goal of putting them in place by the end of the year.

Hickenlooper said the strict standards are important to Colorado, citing climate change and noting the state’s elevation makes pollution worse.

“Our communities, farms and wilderness areas are susceptible to air pollution and a changing climate,” his order said. “It’s critical for Coloradans’ health and Colorado’s future that we meet these challenges head-on.”

Hickenlooper’s order came about three months after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced it would not implement stricter emissions rules adopted by the Obama administration. Those rules would have started with the 2022 model year.

California has a waiver under federal Clean Air Act allowing it to impose tougher standards than the U.S. rules. Currently, California’s standards are the same as the federal standards. But if the Trump administration foregoes the stricter Obama-era rules, California could still impose them or others.

The law allows other states to apply California’s standards. Colorado would be the 13th state, excluding California, to do so, said Luke Tonachel, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s clean vehicles project. The District of Columbia has also adopted the rules.

The states that currently apply California’s rules are Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

“Colorado is recognizing along with other states that the federal rollback is both unjustified and harmful, so the governor is joining others in protecting his state’s citizens,” Tonachel said.

The Colorado Automobile Dealers Association said California standards might not be a good fit for Colorado because a higher percentage of Coloradans buys pickups, SUVS, vans and all-wheel-drive vehicles, which burn more gas.

“We’re disappointed that the state of Colorado, the governor, or regulatory board or anybody else would cede air quality control regulation to an out-of-state, unelected board in Sacramento (California),” said Tim Jackson, president of the association.

The Obama rules would have required the nationwide fleet of new vehicles to get 36 miles per gallon (15 kilometers per liter) in real-world driving by 2025. That’s about 10 mpg (4 kilometers per liter) over the existing standard.

The EPA announced in April it would scrap the Obama-era rules, questioning whether they were technically feasible and citing concerns about how much they would add to the cost of vehicles. The EPA said it would come up with different rules.

California and 16 other states sued the Trump administration over the plan to drop the tougher rules. All the states that joined the lawsuit have Democratic attorneys general. Colorado, which has a Republican attorney general, did not join.

One more thing...

Local and independent journalism is under threat in the West and you change that.  With corporate raiders slashing newsrooms across the West, the PULP is one of the "Last Locals" in Colorado to produce original, compelling journalism missing in today's profit hungry world. But that costs money, time and hard work. We don't believe in spamming you with ads or putting up restrictive paywalls and that's why we need your help.

For every contribution, we put 100% back into producing original and amazing journalism. That's a promise only a local and independent newsroom can promise. Take heart because you will fuel stories just like this one and the future of journalism.
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